Alta Reign – Mother’s Day Review

Ah, the first review of 2021. The awfulness of 2020 is finally behind us and the air is thick with hope and boundless possibilities.1 The world is nearly our oyster once again and everything is poised to come up roses. Because I feel spiritually reborn and brimming with optimism, I picked an upbeat hard rock/metal promo to be my carefree entry point into the year’s grinding review schedule. Alta Reign is the new vehicle of Jeff Plate (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, ex-Savatage, ex-Metal Church) and Jane Mangini (also Trans-Siberian Orchestra), and along with friends, the duo churned out a glossy slice of hard rock with slight metal leanings on their Mother’s Day debut.2 The sound palate falls someplace between the 80s hard rock of Jorn and Magnum, with Royal Hunt-style prog rock and T.N.T. AOR excess mixed in for spice. It’s not a heavy album, and at times it’s not really metal at all. Sadly, it’s also not particularly good, often sounding like the band isn’t entirely sure what they want to achieve as they skim across styles and approaches. Sometimes it’s straight up hard rock, sometimes hair metal, occasionally prog and vaguely retro 70s fare, but at no point is it very compelling or interesting.

Things openly brightly with the easily digestible 80s metal sounds of “Shine.” The riffing sounds like something off Bark at the Moon, but once the vocals arrive things take on a concentrated AOR vibe. It’s the kind of hard rock/metal song you heard a lot of in the 80s and it’s completely inoffensive and catchy in a blandly generic way. This is more or less what the end user can expect the rest of the way as unoriginal, Wonderbread-esque 80s rockers like “Witness” and “Thin Red Line” float by offering decent guitar-work, dime-a-dozen hard rock vocals and mild hooks. The title track sounds like a Royal Hunt B-side circa 1999, and if you try you can easily imagine D.C. Cooper singing it. It’s upbeat with slight prog flourishes and it has a bit more meat on the bones, but it’s still fairly forgettable stuff.

The worst moments arrive with the the back to back misfortunes of “Come Out and Play” and “Let’s Go! (I’m in Charge Now)”. The former is like an unfortunate mix of Extreme, Journey, and believe it or not, Wrathchild America. Naturally, that doesn’t work and the keyboards are overbearing and intrusive. The latter is even worse, sounding like the output of a local bar band writing their first original number. Wonky keyboards elbow their way in and out and the cheese levels hit critical early on with an embarrassing chorus driving the decisive nail in the coffin. Add in a sugary, super-maudlin ballad (“Always”) and an 8-minute closer with little to recommend the length and you have a very uneven, unsatisfying release.

Considering the talent involved in this project, it’s a bit surprising how little the musicians involved challenge themselves. The vocals by Tommy Cook and Collin Holloway are respectable, though they lack any kind of punch or identity. They sound like every other AOR singer and that hurts the material. The guitars by the same pair are rock-standard and lack memorable riffs or standout moments. The biggest issue besides the stiff, uninteresting writing is Jane Mangini’s keyboarding. Her playing is often invasive, abrasive, and annoying, barging in and adding unnecessary and distracting flourishes. She tries to do too much, too often, and therefore accomplishes little beyond frustrating the listener. It doesn’t help that much of her playing sounds extremely dated, as if it was culled from the earliest MTV videos. Add a gratuitous 58-minute runtime and you have an album that significantly overstays its welcome and then does donuts on your lawn on the way out.

Barely a week into 2021 and I’ve already been kicked me in the shins by a promo. I’ve heard worse than Mother’s Day, but there is very little here to recommend and I honestly can’t see anyone under 55 liking this kind of under baked early 80s rock. Especially since it lacks even a trace of the fun factor and ginormous hooks heard on The Night Flight Orchestra platters. Never forget Mother’s Day on the calendar, but you can safely forget this. 2021 is dead to me.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Review: 189 kbps mp3
Label: Rat Pak Records
Releases Worldwide: January 8th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. And traces of COVID.
  2. Yes, yes, yer Mom, I get it.
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